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Monster Hunter Stories, better at Pokemon than Pokemon (Review)
#1
If you're not familiar with Monster Hunter Stories, seeing that title may seem a little confusing, but let me explain things. Monster Hunter Stories is a lot like Pokemon. In the game you can collect various monsters, most if not all that are famous monsters from other entries in the main series up to this point, but unlike Pokemon, doing so feels more rewarding. To get a new monster other than the 1 or 2 given to you by story progression, you have to find a Den. These den's consist of regular dens, rare monster dens, sub quest dens and at the post game, a special den is brought into the game to get even more monsters. While inside the den, you will find several monsters and items, and at the end, a chance to pick an egg. Once you get the egg, you can take it back to a character called Felyne, who will allow you to hatch it, and if you like the monster you get, you can add it into your party. While the process might be more complicated, it's filled with more reward, because you get to pick what egg you get, and a monster isn't instantly added to your party if you have space, or put into another location if you don't. The extra time consumption for doing things this way is well worth it and it feels like you earned it more because you aren't just trying to damage a Pokemon to a certain point, and/or putting status effects on it trying to catch it, a formula that made sense over 20 years ago due to hardware limitations, but one that also got stale over all this time as well. 

What Monster Hunter also does better is battling. It takes the simple idea of Rock, Paper, Scissors, and make then Power Attacks, Technical Attacks and Speed Attacks. Each monster you fight with or against can do any variation of those attacks, and as they level up, learn special moves that fall into one of those categories. Each monster will have one or two preferred ways of attacking save for some bosses which can use all three, and it becomes the players job to match whatever attack type they are most likely to use with the one that type is weak against. The types work like this, Power beats Technical, Technical beats Speed, and Speed Beats Power. To make combat even more interesting, if you attack the same monster several times with the right attack, you have a meter that will build up, allowing to ride on your monster ally to do more damage and release different levels of a combined super move, for a huge damage boost. What's more, if you attack the same monster your AI controlled party member does, you'll hit them with an even harder attack that does more damage if you both select the right attack type, bringing in all kinds of ways to use strategy in combat. While there is definitely strategy combat in Pokemon when playing against other people, the fact that Monster Hunter Stories always has you on your feet in combat is highly enjoyable. 

The story of this Monster Hunter game, isn't really the best. You start out befriending a monster called a Rathalos despite not having a special item called a Kinship Stone, which is supposed to be required to befriend monsters. Sadly, your small village is attacked right after you return home by a Monster infected by a dark element called Blight. In the ensuing attack, one of your best friends loses his home and his mother. The loss has a deep effect on his personality and outlook on life and a year later when he and you become tamers of monsters called Riders, he instantly breaks rider code and leaves his village, in an attempt to destroy the Blight in his own way. You are the hero, an almost entirely silent protagonist that decides to follow the Rider code, minus leaving the village to fight the Blight and potentially save the world, putting you at odds with your friend. The story setup is typical, the ending is fairly typical, but the game is simply a blast to play. 

Monster Hunter Stories does something incredibly rare in that occasionally, very graphically impressive cutscenes play out that really drive some of the major plot points home with their amazing visuals. To get a taste of what that's like without spoiling anything, the Intro for the game is done in those amazing graphics as well. Beyond all that, the game is simply just great, it's varied environments are vast and beautiful and traveling on them is a lot of fun. Monster Hunter Stories also takes another often used trope in Pokemon and does it better as well, by making it so certain monsters can do certain things, like climb up brush that has fallen off the side of a cliff edge, or Swim, or break rocks, or dig under certain parts of dens or parts of the open world to get to secret area's, or even fly. Unlike in previous Pokemon games up until the 3DS titles, none of these are ever required to beat the game, and mostly just lead to extra areas where items for side quests are or at best, items that increase stats might be. But again, these are totally optional, except of course for the flying because one of the monsters you get for Story progression, does that, and it's the best flying I've seen or felt in any game since Ni No Kuni back on PS3. Pokemon's flying, even in Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby, doesn't even come close. 

I can't say Monster Hunter Stories is perfect though, and in fact, it's post game, minus Sun and Moon's, might be the one thing it does that Pokemon does, that's not better here. Sure, extra side quests are added, and two new area's to explore become open to you, but it's not a perfect post game in any sense, and has no story unlike Pokemon, and the den's themselves, while they can be fun, are limited in their layout variety, which becomes all the more apparent in the post game when the new extra dens that have stronger monsters in them, don't have any new layouts to go with them. The story as I said before, is also every typical, but I still feel like it's done better than any Pokemon story as of late, even Sun and Moon, which may have the best story of the series, were not for the fact that it relied far too much on other overdone story stereotypes, and the fact that Monster Hunter has a game with a story at all is something to celebrate because that makes it that much more worth it to play. It's not perfect, but it's fun combat, my desire to complete all the side quests, beat the extra tough monsters in different locations, and eventually try out the online component, make it well worth playing, and will probably also see me making this the third game on my 3DS to get over 100 hours of Play time. It may not be the best game ever, but it's my favorite on 3DS so far this year and possibly ever since Fantasy Life, so my final rating, is 4.7/5. If you have a 3DS, and like combat focused games in a revised turn-based situation, buy this game, it is completely worth it.
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